The English-version opera of "The Dream of the Red Chamber" made its debut on the stage of the Beijing Poly Theater on Sept. 8, 2017, kicking off its first tour in the Chinese mainland. The opera was co-produced by the San Francisco Opera, Beijing Poly Theater Management Co., Ltd. and Armstrong Music and Art Management Co., Ltd., and it was introduced into China by Poly Theatre. Chinese culture minister Luo Shugang, U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad, San Francisco mayor Edwin Mah Lee, Hu Deping, and deputy mayor of Beijing Wang Ning attended the performance. In addition, envoys in China from 16 countries and regions including Germany, Canada, and the European Union, and representatives from the American Chamber of Commerce in China were also invited to watch the performance.
The opera is to express the essence of the Chinese classic novel “A Dream of Red Mansions” in the way of Western-style opera, telling a Chinese story in an international language. It was composed and written by Bright Sheng, a famous American Chinese composer, who was the recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award. The first Chinese winner of Tony Award David Henry Hwang was also one of its writers. Its director was Taiwan opera master Lai Sheng-chuan, and its stage and arts designer was Ye Jintian, who won the U.S. Academy Award for Best Art Direction because of his role in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The opera was seen as a miracle in the study of the classic novel since it told the 120-chapter story of more than 600 characters in the less than three-hour opera, whose script lines were just 45 minutes. The performance on the Chinese mainland, personally directed by Sheng, was slightly different from the version in San Francisco and Hong Kong and was well received by the community.
Tour of the opera of “Dream of Red Chamber” in China was listed as a key project in the first round of Sino-U.S. social and cultural dialogue on Sept. 28. The move speaks to the role the opera has played in cultural exchanges between China and the United States, and the efforts the Poly group has made to promote communication between Chinese and foreign cultures.